Steel Maggie-nolias

I threw away my old Doc Martens combat boots after 27 years of ownership.  As I pitched them into the trash and they clunked towards the bottom of the can, they yelled, “Do they have a steel toooooooooooooooe?!” on their way down, because after so many years of excellent service, this was unfortunately the memory I associated most with them.  Because teenage boys.

Oh!  Do tell, Myrtle!

I remember the day I got my Doc Martens in 1992.  Grunge was now all the rage, and no teenage grunge queen was complete without a pair of Doc Martens to go with her sundress, tights, and flannel shirt.  They were all I wanted in life that year, and I begged my mother to buy them for me.

Fine, these flowers aren’t magnolias, but spoiler alert, those are Doc Martens on my 16-year old feet.  And a cigarette in my hand, but that’s neither here nor there.

Things had finally started to turn around in our household, our roof had been fixed up after Hurricane Andrew (thanks to insurance) and Mom had landed a better-paying job.  Plus, it was just me and her left in the house since my sisters had both moved out.  We were no longer destitute and there was even a little left over for spending.

I told her I needed a new pair of shoes, so we hit the mall.  Just a few years before, besides my yearly pair of $15 sneakers from Fayva the discount shoe store, my two sisters and I shared a single pair of black flats that we fought over mercilessly.

Three teenage girls, one pair of dress shoes, you can imagine the carnage.  You could make ten full wigs out of the amount of hair we pulled out of each other’s heads over those black flats.

As Mom and I stood in the shoe store, she flipped the Doc Martens boot over to see the price tag and said, “Ha!  $120?!!  Not in your wildest dreams, kid!”

She started to walk away, so I had to jump on her to present my proposition.

“Okay, okay, I know this seems nuts, but just listen to me!  If you buy me these boots, I promise I will wear them every single day for the rest of high school.  For two years!”

She said, “You have almost another two years of high school, and you’re telling me, you’re promising me, that you will wear these stupid, ugly things every day?  EVERY day?”

I nodded my head like a maniac, “Yes!  I promise!  Every single day!”

The next day, I swaggered into school in my black sundress, red plaid tights, and my brand-new Doc Martens.  I felt like the coolest mofo on the planet – until the first teenage boy saw me.

“Nice Docs,” he said, pursing his lips and folding his arms.  “I bet you got them at the mall.  Do they have a steel toe?”

(Like he got his Doc Martens trying to fight the Krauts back from the border of Poland in World War II.)

I looked down and said, “No?  Why would I need a steel toe?”

He laughed, “Heh.  Well, mine have a steel toe, so…”

Soooooo…what?  What the hell did I care if his OR my Doc Martens had a steel toe?

“I’m just saying only poseurs wear Docs that don’t have a steel toe.”

He walked away, still laughing.

I had never spoken to this guy in my life, and we didn’t even know each other’s names – but he felt compelled to walk up and insult me.

Were we doing construction work there in the 11th grade, where steel-toed boots would be the only thing standing between me and a pile of broken toes?

As it would turn out, in the two years that I wore my Doc Martens to school EVERY DAY JUST LIKE I’D PROMISED, this was an unsolicited question I was asked by teenage boys on a weekly basis.  I got so tired of having the steel toe conversation, I considered just writing, “No Steel Toe” across the top of one boot in white-out and “Poseur” on top of the other to save myself the time and aggravation.

Look who’s still wearing those Doc Martens a year later at 17!  Never mind the beer, it’s neither here nor there.

It’s so funny, too, looking back on the whole thing and realizing what stupid ass hats those guys were.  My shoes bothered them so much that they felt the need to barge up to me, a stranger, to interrogate me about them and then try to make me feel like they were better than me?

I don’t think I’m better than anyone except Melissa’s mom, and everybody knows that.

They acted like they had somehow “earned” their combat boots as teenage boys and I was merely trying to game their system.  Like they were wearing them for actual combat when I was just wearing them for fashion, even though it was the 90s and we were all just wearing them for fashion.

18 years old!  Still wearing those Docs!  I was SO HIGH IN THIS PICTURE, but that’s neither here nor there.

And what are we even talking about here?  Did they think I wasn’t cool enough to be into grunge?  Is there even such a thing as a person who isn’t cool enough to be into grunge?

I present this photograph of Jeff Ament and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, as Exhibits A through Z in my case:

These two look like what would happen if Gallagher had sex with a dreamcatcher on top of a deflated beach ball in the middle of a Spencer Gifts in Omaha.

If you’re reading this and realize you were one of these steel-toe jerks back in the day, I want to impress upon you how obnoxious I thought you were then, and still think you are today.

I hope your closet is filled with nothing but ill-fitting, moose-knuckle khakis, GREG.

I hope you have a neverending hangnail that catches on your pants every time you put your hand in your pocket, JASON.

I hope it burns just a little every time you stop peeing, like you had to cut the stream short even though you didn’t actually cut the stream short, MATT.

I hope you have the short stream burn, Matt.

The short.



Years later, I got a job at that same shoe store so I could get the employee discount on further Doc Martens purchases, but I had to quit after my first day because of herpes.

Stay tuned for that one next week.

19 years old.  First office job and wearing Doc Martens at the reception desk.  Also sleeping on the job while clutching a stuffed animal, but that’s neither here nor there.

36 thoughts on “Steel Maggie-nolias

  1. All that for fashion?? Glad I was never a teenage girl or a teenage guy that gave much of a damn about it. I have had to wear steel toed shoes for some of my employments over the years, but I can tell you that you don’t want steel toes in a cold environment.
    I love the disclaimers with the photos, but that’s neither here nor there!
    At my work desk at the moment wearing jeans, a hoodie, and walking shoes. I am not Frank Fashion-Conscious and I am old enough to retire. You might find me appalling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this one so much. And can so relate. If you were any sort of girl into any sort of anternative/goth/geek/grunge culture, it’s like boys were constantly trying to make you prove you were “real” enough. As though whatever you were doing was some weird effort to trick and manipulate them into thinking you were one of “the cool girls.” I remember feeling like I had to have insanely encyclopedic knowledge of every topic, every band, every video game, everything, so people couldn’t say shit. And they still did anyway. You captured that bullshit misogyny perfectly. And looked good in those docs doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The constant quizzing was exhausting, wasn’t it? God forbid you didn’t know the name of the 7-inch Pennywise released in blah blah blah or have the latest Japanese import CD from Jane’s Addiction or you just simply weren’t cool enough to hang out with those guys. They still do it, too. I have some guys I’ve known for years who anytime I post anything on social media about a band they deem “uncool” they have to immediately jump into the comments to tell me how much a band I like totally sucks. Like anyone asked their opinion, or cares for that matter!


  3. I had Doc Martens too…. although I beat you by a decade. My friends and I were grunge before grunge was cool. Or maybe we were just lazy, tough call. To be honest I don’t remember if they were steel toe or not…. I just know they were clunky, my parents thought they were hideous and I loved them dearly.
    Great old old pictures. Mine included beer and cigarettes at that age as well, but I wasn’t half as pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny when I pick up a pair now in a store and they’re so HEAVY. I forgot how heavy they were! We all must have superhero ankles from wearing them for so many years.

      Thanks for the kind words! That was the best thing about old fashioned film cameras – they hid a multitude of hormonal zits, no filter required!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Gosh I was happy just getting my Nike Classic Cortez sneaker with the swoosh in a color that matched my skateboard I got at the swap meet, lol. I was a jock in junior and high school and that was before the grunge era, by the 90’s I was already married with two kids. But you rocked those Doc Martens Maggs, totes rocked!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And of course it never occurred to any of use to just LIE! How easy would it have been to just go “yeah — you think I’m a *poseur*?!” There’s an outside chance they would have tested it, but you’d probably have scared them off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, how I wish. I was such a sad, meek girl in high school. Confidence didn’t come into my life until I was well into my thirties!

      And you’re right – I should have just lied! 🙂


  6. Promise kept — you were hardcore committed to that every day for two years thing. Of course if I’d made a promise like that to my mom and then DIDN’T keep it? Well, I’d never hear the end of the “what, you think we just have money coming out of our EARS for things like SHOES?” questions…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am profoundly impressed by your photographic evidence of misspent youth and even more by your willingness to share it.

    My only conception of the Doc Marten steel toe was from one of the very few Russell Crowe movies I never saw – Romper Stomper. I’m not sure those were the boots in the movie (that I never saw) but I thought they were, so that meant I also thought that anyone obsessed with steel toes was a total dick and probably a violet psychopath. With hideous tattoos. Based on your description of your tormentors, I was at least half right about that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. But no steel toes! And Romper Stomper was about a gang of neo-nazi violent bullies that go around, well, stomping people. I think. I never saw the movie. Because I thought it was about stomping people. And you’d never do that. Te absolvo on the tattoos, you were a kid. Without steel toes.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve always wanted a pair, actually, but I’m too cheap. I actually just love useful boots. Riding boots, military boots, the works. Also boots with pointless straps and lacing so it looks like it’s intended to test macaws for intelligence or something.

    Also my main fashion sense consists of not caring, except for work where it consists of wearing the most hideous LuLaRoe shirts I can find and then laughing at people who cringe. I have a few I like and think are cute… but I don’t wear them to work. They’re for funerals and stuff.

    The best is when they say something like “Oh…. that’s cute?” with the questioning lilt at the end like they’re very confused but want to be polite. Endless entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You should have kicked them hard–the lack of a steel toe would have made them grateful. I still have Doc Martens but never bothered with steel toes because it was too hard to dance in them that way:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Is it weird I’ve been contemplating getting Doc Martens, as in, in the modern day?

    (I was going to say something about the whole quizzing of geek girls thing, but a scan of the comments shows someone else already has. Good job them. Getting all the good comment topics. Before me.)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this! I’ve had to wear steel toes for work in the past, not something you’d do out of choice. Very hard on the tootsies and very heavy. A high price to pay for thinking it makes you cooler.
    I remember in my teens my Dad saying ‘why do you want to dress like that?’.
    ‘Because I want to look different Dad’.
    And I’ll never forget his reply;
    ‘But you all look the same’!
    Which is neither here nor there. I never owned any Docs, but I do own a rather fab pair of red New Rocks 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I just found your blog (thanks to a link on The Bloggess), and I love your writing! Really looking forward to binge-reading your posts over the weekend. The highlight thus far, “These two look like what would happen if Gallagher had sex with a dreamcatcher on top of a deflated beach ball in the middle of a Spencer Gifts in Omaha.” Dead. I am dead now.

    Also, I still have my Docs (20-eye, pewter, no steel toe), and I still wear them, even though I’m old. Best drunk purchase I ever made.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome – so glad you landed here and thanks for the kind words! You’ll find plenty of Bloggess people here in the comments and everyone is nice and funny and awesome. Hope you have a good time when you come to visit over the weekend!

      And it turns out none of us have steel-toed Docs, so we’re all total poseurs. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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